Being one of the major current titles pushing the narrative of Year of the Villain forward Batman/Superman has gotten off to a solid start. The reveal of Shazam being one of the Batman Who Laughs’ Infected that is making up his Secret Six was nicely handled. Though the reveals for all the Infected being spoiled by DC Comics marketing and solicitations has definitely taken away the excitement from the other reveals. With one of the major selling points taken away from Batman/Superman Joshua Williamson will need to deliver on the story front even more to put those Infected reveals over. Let’s see if he can be successful by taking a look at Batman/Superman #3.
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: David Marquez
Colorist: Alejandro Sanchez
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: In his secret hideout within the Hall of Justice, Batman reflects on how he has studied his friends, family and allies to create contingency plans in case the worst happens. As he does this Batman admits that going to these lengths have led him to commit a betrayal a trust. He goes on to think how those actions have led his best friend, Superman, to go undercover as one of Batman Who Laughs’ Infected.
Elsewhere Batman Who Laughs tells “Infected” Superman he should have never of killed his version of Superman as he would’ve been a great tool for him to use. At the same time, “Infected” Superman continues to use heat vision to create a tunnel for himself and Batman Who Laughs to escape from, all the while Batman watches from his secret hideout.
Eventually “Infected” Superman gets himself and Batman Who Laughs into the Hall of Justice’s armory. Superman suggest they kill everyone in the Hall of Justice. Batman Who Laughs appreciates “Infected” Superman’s spunk but says that will have to wait for another time.
Batman Who Laughs goes on to states they are going to kill everyone in the Multiverse including Jon and Lois. This pushes “Infected” Superman’s buttons and he immediately slams Batman Who Laughs against a wall.
Batman suddenly appears and injects some kryptonite into Superman to stop him. He then activates restraints to capture Batman Who Laughs and “Infected” Superman. Batman goes on to reveal that Batman Who Laughs knows about Superman going undercover, which Batman Who Laughs confirms.
Batman Who Laughs then reveals he knows that they are in a hologram that Batman created. “Infected” Superman still doesn’t fully grasp what is going on. Batman reveals that Batman Who Laughs was turning Superman into an actual Infected. Batman Who Laughs compliments Batman on sending Superman in to discover the real list of his Infected.
Batman immediately locks Batman Who Laughs back into his containment bubble. Batman then places Superman in a yellow Sun containment cell that will help the Joker Toxin antidote to cure him.
Superman asks Batman where he plans on going. Batman says into a trap which Superman tries to stop him from doing but can’t.
Over in Gotham City Batman is able to track Commissioner James Gordon driving on a bridge. Batman asks Commissioner Gordon why he sent him and Superman into a trap. Commissioner Gordon says all Batman has ever done is hurt him and cause Gotham City to fall deeper into ruin. Commissioner Gordon then reveals himself to be one of the Infected as he continues to taunt Batman over all his failings of leading countless cops to their deaths and Robins to die.
Batman immediately punches through the car windshield and slams Infected Gordon on the ground, leading Gordon’s car to crash. Infected Gordon is quick to activate his old Batman armor that he had hiding inside his vehicle. Infected Gordon then orders the Batman armor to fight Batman while he gets ready to pay his daughter, Barbara Gordon, a visit.
Superman shows up to block the Batman armor’s attack. Superman says he discovered through listening to when Batman Who Laughs said “shine their name’s in the sky” that he was talking about Gordon. Superman then immediately charges at the Batman armor while Batman does his best to defend himself against Infected Gordon.
Infected Gordon continues to taunt Batman for not discovering that he was one of the Infected for several weeks now. As the taunting goes on Batman is able to knock Infected Gordon out. At the same time Superman is able to destroy the Batman armor.
Superman tells Batman that they will find a cure for Gordon and the other Infected. Batman believes that Batman Who Laughs intentionally wanted them to discover Infected Gordon so they would study the old Batman armor Gordon wore when he was Batman for a time. Superman thinks they should take the Batman armor to the Batcave. Batman rejects that idea because he needs to stop thinking like himself, instead he should ask what Superman would do.
Batman and Superman fly over to the Fortress of Solitude where they have Kelex analyze the Batman armor. Superman suggests they bring the Justice League to the Fortress of Solitude to reveal everything they have discovered. Batman thinks that they risk giving away their one location Batman Who Laughs doesn’t know about.
Infected Gordon suddenly wakes up and says that it is too late for that. After Infected Gordon says that the Batman armor blows into extremely small pieces that cover Kelex.
The destroyed Batman armor then reforms into Blue Beetle (Jaime Reyes), who reveals himself to be one of Batman Who Laughs’ Infected. Infected Blue Beetle reveals that he now has command of the Fortress of Solitude and that they won’t think of him as a sidekick in-training anymore. Infected Blue Beetle then transforms into a corrupted version of his armor as he takes out Batman and Superman.
At that same time a message appears on the Batcave computer that freaks Alfred Pennyworth out.
The sky above the Hall of Justice suddenly turns dark.
Batman Who Laughs senses this from his containment cell and understands that Lex Luthor has gone into action. As the Legion of Doom signal shines over the sky Batman Who Laughs is still confident in his ultimate victory when all is said and done. End of issue.
The Good: Batman/Superman is a title that continues to deliver a strong progression to the Batman Who Laughs story. Everything that takes place in Batman/Superman #3 comes across as a natural next step to the story that originally started in Dark Nights: Metal. The only misstep that is made is when one unnecessary story choice is made.
With how the previous issue ended with talk of Batman’s secret security hideout within the Hall of Justice it was good to see Joshua Williamson flesh that out more. Even though we have seen Batman being a much more team player in the New 52 and Rebirth DC Universe continuity it doesn’t not mean he can stop himself from being prepared for every type of scenario. Being this prepared has meant Batman has had to shoulder the consequences of so many secrets. We are seeing that with how things are turning out in the “City of Bane” storyline and now again in Batman/Superman.
Batman being aware of all this while he simultaneously watches the Justice League meeting and Superman trying to convince Batman Who Laughs he is an Infected was well executed. During Batman’s internal monologue we grow to understand that the weight of all these decisions are getting to him. There is so much that Batman has to keep track of at once right now that he is clearly not in control of what is going on.
The lack of control in this current story involving Batman Who Laughs’ Infected just emphasizes all this for Batman. Throughout Batman/Superman #3 we see Batman forced into having to think on the fly. That is clearly a position that is not normal for Bruce Wayne. Which plays in well when Batman realizes he needs to stop thinking like himself in this conflict with Batman Who Laughs. Even though things don’t work out when he does this, it is a clear character growth moment as Batman is starting to understand why Batman Who Laughs continues to be ahead of him in everything.
This characterization of Batman was complimented well with how Superman did his best to act like an Infected after using Joker toxin on himself. Superman continues to be very reactionary when it comes to dealing with this conflict involving Batman Who Laughs. Superman is doing his best to be a bit more like Batman without losing himself. By doing so Superman is losing clear sight of what Batman Who Laughs true plans are.
Superman not realizing that Batman Who Laughs was actually manipulating him the entire time was well done. This was done to open Superman’s eyes that he can’t just charge in with a simple plan to be a mole within Batman Who Laughs’ group. Since this was the first big interaction Superman has had with Batman Who Laughs this was something that needed to happen. Now Superman is in a position where he realizes traditional superhero methods won’t nearly be enough for him and Batman to defeat the bad guy.
Which brings us to the two big Infected “reveals” of Batman/Superman #3 with Commissioner Gordon and Blue Beetle revealing they are part of Batman Who Laughs’ Secret Six. To his credit, Williamson was able to put over the personalities of the Infected versions of both Commissioner Gordon and Blue Beetle in quick fashion. Much like Infected Shazam, both Infected Gordon and Infected Blue Beetle’s dialogue spoke to how they are not being hindered by thinking about others. This them without any sort of inhibitions to keep them from saying the thoughts they’ve likely had in the past.
Williamson also did a good job making Infected Gordon and Infected Blue Beetle two different types of characters that spoke to their respective history. With Infected Gordon we saw how he just unleashed on Batman a lot of things that come across as truths about his presence in Gotham City. Hitting on so many things that are personal to Batman pushed how Infected Gordon will be a much more psychological villain since he can’t fight like Infected Shazam and Blue Beetle can.
Similarly, Infected Blue Beetle was well developed for the short time he was on screen. Blue Beetle acting as the old Batman armor that Gordon wore during his short time as Batman was a nice way to put over the way he is now using his powers. This nanite transformation Blue Beetle took on makes him an even more dangerous opponent to take on.
Developing Gordon and Blue Beetle in this way also helps to put over the point of how long Batman and Superman can keep working this case just the two of them. We continue to see how they are both at odds when it comes to if they should bring in the rest of the Justice League to fight Batman Who Laughs’ Secret Six. With how powerful Shazam, Blue Beetle and Gordon have already shown themselves to be in their Infected states they are only leading themselves to be in even greater danger. This creates greater intrigue into the actions Batman and Superman take to fight Batman Who Laughs and his Secret Six.
Which all speaks to how great of a villain Batman Who Laughs continues to be. Williamson does such a great job in making Batman Who Laughs an unredeemable character. This is a character that is 100% a villain who reveals in causing greater chaos than he already has. Which works well into the supreme confidence Batman Who Laughs has in himself. Even with Lex Luthor and the Legion of Doom’s current plans Batman Who Laughs believes he will come out on top. And Williamson gets you to believe that there is a high likelihood that will happen if things continue to go the way they are right now.
David Marquez artwork on Batman/Superman has been getting better with each passing issue. Batman/Superman #3 continues that as we see how much more comfortable he is drawing the DC Universe after spending so much time at Marvel. He does a great job showcasing the different fighting styles of Batman and Superman. Batman is shown to be more technically skilled while Superman is more of a tank. Marquez artwork also helped to elevate the talking head scenes that Batman Who Laughs and Infected Gordon have when they go down their respective long monologues.
The Bad: As much work as Williamson puts into making the development of Infected Gordon and Infected Blue Beetle to make them fully realized characters it did lack the punch of being a surprise. DC Comics not keeping Batman Who Laughs’ full Secret Six line-up a secret hurts the dramatic impact when they are actually revealed within the Batman/Superman comic. Not having the surprise factor just makes these reveals less cool.
While it wasn’t a big part of the issue, there was absolutely no need to have Alfred Pennyworth in Batman/Superman #3. Williamson should not get the reader to think of when this is happening in the DC Universe timeline. Comic book readers already set aside their thoughts on when storylines happen in comparison to each other. Calling attention to the DCU timeline by involving Alfred, who was killed in “City of Bane,” should be a point where the editors should’ve told Williamson not to include.
Especially considering that Alfred’s appearance in Batman/Superman #3 directly ties into the Legion of Doom symbol shining across the world. This further points to how sloppy of a job this major Year of the Villain plot point has been handled across ever comic book by the DC editors. Because over in Batman we know by the time the Legion of Doom symbol shines across the world Alfred is dead and Batman and Catwoman are busy fighting Bane. Not keeping that in mind hurts how impactful the Legion of Doom symbol appearing in Batman/Superman is.
Overall: Batman/Superman #3 is another strong chapter in the event that is building around Batman Who Laughs plot for the entire Multiverse. Reveals being spoiled aside, Joshua Williamson does a great job developing the latest Infected heroes that have joined Batman Who Laughs’ Secret Six. How Batman and Superman respond to all that takes place has created greater interest into the endgame of this storyline. It’s just to bad continuity issues hinder the full potential of Batman/Superman #3.
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